Plymouth University in the UK has launched a new project to design and build a full-sized, fully autonomous unmanned ship, transforming the future of world shipping.
Claimed to be the world’s first project of this type, the university is expected to sail the vessel across the Atlantic in 2020 after completing one year of testing.
The voyage will mark the 400th anniversary of the original Mayflower sailings from Plymouth to the North American continent.
Named the Mayflower Autonomous Research Ship (MARS), this vessel will be powered by renewable energy technology and is expected to be built in two-and-a-half years.
Plymouth University Faculty of Science and Engineering executive dean professor Kevin Jones said: "MARS has the potential to be a genuine world-first, and will operate as a research platform, conducting numerous scientific experiments during the course of its voyage.
"And it will be a test bed for new navigation software and alternative forms of power, incorporating huge advancements in solar, wave and sail technology."
The new vessel will feature a number of drones with which, it will be capable of conducting a variety of experiments during the crossing.
Being constructed by Plymouth-based autonomous craft specialists MSubs, the design of the vessel will be carried out by Shuttleworth Design.
Orion Shuttleworth said: "We want the vessel to really capture the imagination.
"It’s of a scale unmatched by anything in the civilian world."
As part of the university’s ‘Shape the Future’ fundraising campaign, the project has received its initial funding from the university, MSubs, and the ProMare Foundation.
Plymouth University will also seek corporate and private sponsorship for the project.
Image: MARS would be the world’s first full-sized, fully autonomous unmanned ship. Photo: courtesy of Shuttleworth Design.